Doughball Divination: This method is practiced mainly in the monasteries or by individual lamas when an important decision needs to be made, such as in the search for the reincarnation of very high lamas. A number of possible answers to the enquiry, such as the names of likely candidates for a reincarnation, are written on slips of paper. These are then encased in equal sized balls of dough. Great care is taken to weigh the doughballs to ensure that they are exactly the same size. The doughballs are then placed in a bowl, which is carefully sealed and placed in front of a sacred object, such as the Jowo statue in the main temple in Lhasa, images of dharma protectors or the funerary monuments of great lamas, requesting their inspiration in deciding the outcome. For a period of three days monks remain in the temple reciting prayers day and night. During that time no one is allowed to touch the bowl. On the fourth day, before all those present the cover of the bowl is removed. A prominent lama rolls the doughballs round in the bowl before the sacred object until one of them falls out. That is the ball containing the answer.

—From the website of the Government of Tibet in Exile, www.tibet.com

 

The Dalai Lama delivering the inaugural "Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society" lecture at the 35th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. © 2005 Society for Neuroscience.
The Dalai Lama delivering the inaugural “Dialogues between Neuroscience and Society” lecture at the 35th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. © 2005 Society for Neuroscience.

AS A NON-BUDDHIST, non-Christian, nontheist (mono- or poly-), I would say that the doughball falls out of the bowl at random, like the yarrow sticks cast upon a table for a reading of the I Ching. Air currents, gravity, muscular twitchings, the physical imperfections of the balls–all interact to produce an outcome whose meaning lies only in the mind of the beholder. Most of what happens in the universe is not about us, which doesn’t make it any less wonderful to be alive.

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